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The Ashes: James Anderson, Mitchell Starc hope to bowl the Urn over

England’s James Anderson and Australia’s Mitchell Starc will be key to their teams when the Ashes begin in Brisbane on Thursday.

cricket Updated: Nov 22, 2017 19:18 IST
Devarchit Varma
Devarchit Varma
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
The Ashes,Ashes,Ashes 2017-18
England pacer James Anderson (L) and Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc will be key in the Ashes.(HT Photo)

From Fred ‘Demon’ Spofforth to Jim Laker’s record 46 wickets in a series to Harold Larwood in the famous ‘Bodyline’ series, the Ashes have witnessed legendary bowlers turn around matches, or even series, on many occasions.

In recent years Aussie Mitchell Johnson’s thunderbolts in Ashes 2013-14 Down Under remains the latest example of a bowler making a lasting impact over five Tests. For England, Stuart Broad’s spell of 8 for 15 at Nottingham in the last edition highlighted how one bowler, or even a spell, could turn the course drastically.

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This Ashes involves some of the finest Test bowlers: world No 1 James Anderson will spearhead England’s quest to retain the Urn, while the Mitchell Starc-led Australian pace attack will take the field with the sole objective of ‘hurting’ the visitors, when the series gets underway at The Gabba, Brisbane, on Thursday.

Anderson has his exploits of 2010-11 to fall back on for inspiration. Mastering the Kookaburra ball in a land where high temperatures, parched wickets and sunny skies do not let bowlers generate a lot of swing, Anderson had showed his class while scripting history.

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He was the only bowler from either side to finish with more than 20 wickets, 24 to be precise, but his controlled movement helped England win a series Down Under after 28 years.

Impact bowling remains crucial

Johnson’s searing pace in short bursts, playing on the psyche of England batsmen got him 37 wickets, which won Australia the series. But the greatest bowling display in Ashes history which made a lasting impact over generations was Larwood’s in Ashes 1932-33.

Larwood, operating on a dangerous line, had even managed to get the better of Sir Don Bradman. In fact, English skipper Douglas Jardine’s Bodyline bowling tactics saw even the diplomatic relations between the two countries become strenuous.

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To put things into perspective, only once in Ashes history has a bowler taken 40 or more wickets in Australia. Australian fast bowler Rodney Hogg’s 41 wickets in 1978-79 remains a record.

A similar impact can be expected from Mitchell Starc, who claimed two hat-tricks in one match for New South Wales against Western Australia to prove his destructive instinct in home conditions.

Among the best

Jim Laker’s 10 for 53 at Manchester in 1956 set a world record which only one bowler could match. India’s Anil Kumble is the only bowler after Laker to have taken 10 wickets in an innings. But even before Laker, Arthur Mailey had come close to taking 10 wickets in an innings when he claimed 9/121 in Melbourne in February 1921.

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Glenn McGrath, with 157 wickets in 30 Ashes Tests may be behind Shane Warne (195 wickets in 36 Ashes Tests), but his spell of 8 for 38 shot England out for a mere 77.

Apart from his ‘Ball of the Century’, Warne’s 40 wickets in the 2005 series are also among the best Ashes performances ever.

First Published: Nov 22, 2017 19:18 IST